Monday, November 13, 2017

"Little Baltimore"

"Little Baltimore"
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"Little Baltimore"

In Caswell County, North Carolina, the area near the intersection of Highway 62N (between Yanceyville and Milton) and the Blanch Road has from at least 1931 been called "Little Baltimore." Highway 62N is the road between Yanceyville and Milton.

One Caswell native familiar with the area reported the following in 2007:

Clyde Willis (age 86) remembers hearing people talk about "Little Baltimore." He said it is located on 62 N and Blanch Road. The two-story house at the intersection is still standing. Mr. Claire Taylor was born in a little cabin behind this house. Clyde said there was a Horse Race Track there and lots more. He said, John Lea and the Matlock boys handled the horses and races, The stage coaches would stop there as they passed by this way and he remembers there was gambling, of course some "spirits," and with a chuckle, he said most anything else was going on. It was thriving place.

But, why the area was called "Little Baltimore" remains a mystery.

"Lea's Tavern"
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The two-story house referred to by Clyde Willis was called "Lea's Tavern."

The owner of the tavern was James (Hops) Lea (c.1781 - c.1834). He apparently also was known as Hopping Jim Lea, son of John Lea and Elizabeth Bradley. He is a great grandson of one of Caswell County's founders, James (Country Line) Lea (1707-1792). The Lea family used and reused the given names James, John, and William to such an extent that nicknames were needed to keep them separate. And, yes, Leasburg is named for one or more members of this Lea family.

Some architectural historians date the structure from 1821. However, the following may provide a better date (though off only slightly):

"William P. Payne to retail liquor at new tavern lately built by James Lea."

This is an entry in the minutes of the Caswell County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions (January 1820). As the court terms were quarterly, this entry was made at some point during the January-March 1820 session.

In the 1960s the house may have been occupied. However, it soon fell into disrepair and became hidden by vegetation. The original property eventually was purchased by Nathaniel Jesse Taylor (1863-1938), who had a substantial farm on adjacent property. His son, William Claire Taylor (1901-1988) continued to own and operate the large farm for many years, selling all or a large part of it to George Julian Myers (1920-2000).

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